Hiring, retention bonus exclusions under Equal Pay Act end 9/28

By Christine M. Zinter
Bullard Law
August 23, 2022

By Christine M. Zinter The Oregon Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from discriminating between employees in the payment of wages or other compensation for “work of a comparable character” unless the wage differential is based on certain bona fide factors such as seniority, education, training, experience, or other factors listed in ORS § 652.220.

In June 2021, the Oregon legislature, recognizing employers’ need for flexibility to address COVID-19 employment challenges, amended the Act to exempt vaccine incentives, hiring bonuses, and retention bonuses from the definition of “compensation.” Earlier this year, Governor Brown extended the amendment, originally set to expire March 1, 2022, until “the 180th day following the expiration or termination of the declaration of a state of emergency.”

Oregon’s state of emergency ended on April 1, 2022. This means the exception under the Oregon Equal Pay Act for vaccination/hiring/retention bonuses expires September 28, 2022. Employers who have been paying these bonuses should be aware that continuing to do so after September 28 may result in an inadvertent violation of the Act and lead to subsequent employee claims of unlawful discrimination.

As a reminder, the Act does not require employers to conduct a pay equity audit. However, the law contains a “safe harbor” provision, so if an organization conducts an audit and fixes any issues, the employer will be protected from compensatory and punitive damage liability in any related lawsuit for the next three years.

For more information about an employer’s responsibilities under the Oregon Equal Pay Act, pay equity audits, and other employment law matters, please contact the employment law experts at Bullard Law.

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